Citation: Anonym Trismegistus. "Near Life Experiences: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide (exp34484)". Erowid.org. Jun 14, 2006. erowid.org/exp/34484
In my ideal world I could get a nitrous/oxygen dual tank and dive for the deep haul but such is the world.
Of all the psycho actives I've tried nitrous is the most likely to get me on a bingeing roll. Many is the time I've picked up a few 24 packs of cylinders thinking to have a few months supply, only to find myself pie-eyed and surrounded by clinking canisters several hours later, grasping at the straws of some divine revelation that was wiped clean in the psychedelic noise. The line between a euphorically rising revelatory rush and an ear-ringing, rushing blankness is a fine one indeed. On at least three occasions I was convinced (how true it might be is impossible to gauge) that I was near to death.
As with many of the famous users of yore I've noted a certain tendency to have revelatory flashes induced by language games under the influence. As usual, it's very hard to say what might be genuine insight and what is just an induced feeling of 'significance' layered over an actually banal experience is difficult to say. Certainly attempts to record or recollect such experiences have been less than instructive. The general trend of experiences proceeded as follows:
1-3 canisters in succession: deep inhalations of nitrous alternated with deep breaths of clear air. Usually during the first exhalation the rush starts. It is largely physical, a classic 'rush' with euphoric sensations of pleasure. I get 1-3 inhalations per canister. With successive breaths the rush and pleasure rises. Side effects include a ringing or pulsing auditory illusion and elevated heart rate. These effects may start to override the rush in the vicinity of three canisters in close succession. I find 'holding in' an inhalation or hitting multiply without normal breaths in between magnifies these negative effects. The experience lasts a few minutes at most though a sort of 'zapped' after effect is not uncommon for an hour or so after, particularly if many sessions are strung together.
3-10 canisters in succession: taken steadily in the same manner, the rush can reach a plateau and interesting cognitive effects begin to appear. Common themes in my experiences are:
- A feeling of having tapped into a 'timeless' state of being. A sense of connection with all events in my life/in the universe. If listening to music or watching video, these stimuli have induced a cascade of memories surrounding the piece in question. Sometimes this translates as a sense of 'storing' these sensory perceptions in a way somehow more timeless and less transient than ordinary memory. Experience seems archetypal.
- Constructions of language take on profound meaning. Deep significance in lyrics or dialog are found, relating to profound mysteries of life. Often these induce laughter, sometimes uncontrollable laughter at the nakedly revelatory character of the superficially mundane. A sense of words being 'put there' to be experienced at that moment.
- Classic disassociation: a feeling of being remote from one's body/identity purely subsumed in the ongoing experience. This can be scary or pleasurable depending on the mindset. I find if I keep a tight grip on my sense of self I can avoid this trip but it also makes the experience a lot less interesting.
At these doses the side effects can easily overwhelm the experience. I've known the auditory 'ringing' to totally overwhelm all external input, and the heart rate/body rush issues can leave me feeling wrung out and ill. The disassociate state can easily tip over into a several minute. I have also experienced interludes of fairly intense pain - whether a result of oxygen lack, baffled neurons or unconsciously clenched teeth I don't know. Usually it is centered in the head, but I've experienced joint pains as well. A law of diminishing returns very much comes into effect. There is a tendency to reach a plateau of negative/versus positive equilibrium at this point that further use smears around without really achieving anything. I've had a few profound experiences going further, but for the most part indulging past this point in a sitting is unprofitable. This is also where the compulsive tendency is likely to kick in. There is a desire to re-attain the heights, the moments of euphoric insight. As usual this seldom leads to anywhere very pleasant.
10-24 canisters - the upper limit is basically just imposed by the size of the standard larger package. Above warnings aside, I've found higher plateaus with nitrous. The side-effects diminish or perhaps I just become used to them, the euphoria is not as distinct but the 'timeless' sense is stronger. On several occasions I have become focused on the concept of my death. At times it has been abstract - an acute awareness of mortality and a sense that the moment somehow contains an essence of that mortality - at others it has been concrete, a sense that death was in some sense near - a common theme has been the thought that death was elective, that despite all appearances I had the choice to live or die at any moment - a thought alternately comforting and terrifying.
Alternates - fear and bliss, pleasure and pain - tend to come in waves. At the deepest level I have had a revelation I can unfortunately not truly recall or relate: it was a sense of having stumbled upon some core and fundamental (and terribly obvious once revealed) insight into the fundamental nature of things. I can sketch vague elements - part of it is self versus other, how the sense of self creates individuality and the sense of existence, but with isolation, while the other brings love and sharing, but at the expense of individuality and autonomy. Something about the death trip as well, the sense that existence is in some sense elective. But I almost feel I get farther away from the truth of it the more I try to talk about it. Those issues are as the frame to the picture: the picture I cannot describe.
One aspect I can describe clearly is a sense that the revelation could not coexist in an ongoing way with conventional existence - that it must be forgotten to go on. In the experience where I felt nearest to death - where the trip was completely taken over by fear of death in that moment - there was a sense that if I could not willfully forget the revelation it would be the same as death. I felt that I was literally holding onto life as a sheer act of will.
At high levels there are after-effects. The residue described above can be an issue, leaving a foul metallic taste which probably bodes no good thing. Headache is common. A sense of being spent - physically as well as mentally - usually accompanies going over ten canisters. Painful muscles and joints and upset digestion have also resulted. After the compulsive desire to do more fades I've often experienced a real aversion to doing more - in fact I've avoided it for close to a year now. I feel I've experienced whatever value there was to be found in this indulgence. Nitrous is a unique experience. Unlike with psychedelics, although the most 'profound' experiences have been intriguing, I end feeling I found nothing I could bring back with me into conventional reality.
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